Nutrients are constantly cycling through farms. Nutrients come onto a farm in the form of feed, commercial fertilizers, manure, or compost, and they leave the farm with harvested crops, sold livestock, and off-site disposal of manure and other waste. Sometimes nutrients are even lost to the air, soil, or water. Nutrient management allows farmers to use nutrients (specifically nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) wisely for optimal economic benefit with minimal impact on the environment.

Approximately 80 percent of nutrients fed to an animal passes through the gut and into its manure. If managed correctly, the nutrients and organic matter in this manure can be recycled to produce crops and save producers money. If managed incorrectly, manure can contribute to nonpoint source pollution that threatens water quality. One practice that reduces the impact of agriculture on natural resources is nutrient management planning, which involves monitoring and recording all aspects of soil fertility, manure sampling, and crop production so that air, soil, and water resources are not compromised.

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